Lord Mayor of Cork reflects on highlights of 2022 and looks ahead to 2023

Lord Mayor Cllr Deirdre Forde reflects on the highlights of her time as mayor to-date and looks ahead to 2023
Lord Mayor of Cork reflects on highlights of 2022 and looks ahead to 2023

Lord Mayor Cllr. Deirdre Forde, Oisín Robinson and Lorraine O'Sullivan join together to light Cork City up for Christmas. Picture: Alison Miles /OSM PHOTO

THE need to ensure the city centre remains the vibrant heart of Cork; the delivery of sustainable transport solutions so people of all ages and abilities can take the bus, cycle or walk easily around the city; and the need for climate action to guide and underpin the city’s growth and evolution, have been hallmarks of my mayoral year to date.

When I began my mayoralty, I said I would focus on ensuring the city centre remains a safe and inviting space for people of all ages.

Central to this was ensuring some of the post-Covid vacancy on Patrick Street was addressed, as a busy street means a safer street, so I am delighted to see Easons reopen at the site of the former Victoria Hotel and to see outdoor clothing store North Face and footwear shop Dune on the street.

We all know that while online shopping can be easy – I’ll admit too easy at times – there is nothing quite like the buzz of shopping in town, meeting a friend for coffee or lunch, and bumping into people on the street. We all hate to see much-loved shops, businesses, restaurants and cafes struggle and close, so if we want to ensure viability, we need to support local and shop sustainably over Christmas and the New Year. Every €10 that is spent locally brings €50 to the local economy.

Looking forward to next year, I can’t wait to see what will happen at one of the important sites on Patrick’s Street – Debenhams, or Roches Stores as it was known to generations of Corkonians. 

It’s understood that there is good interest in the site, which is a phenomenal 1.32 acres in size. I hope that the new tenant develops an offering that further enlivens and enriches the city centre experience for young and old.

While retail and commercial space is key to a city’s business offering, a city’s people and quality of life is what makes you want to live or re-locate there.

The new arts and culture strategy launched this year is a key part of this. The strategy, the first such statement of purpose for the development of the arts in the city in 10 years, paints a vision of Cork as a city where art and artists thrive and where arts and culture is for all to enjoy. It took over a year to bring this to fruition with hundreds of members of the public, artists, cultural workers and others canvased for their views on arts and culture in Cork and their ideas, hopes and dreams for the future.

Inclusive and accessible arts was one of the biggest asks of the consultation and this is one of five pillars of the resulting strategy. The need for more space for art – including artists workspaces - was also heard loud and clear.

Over the course of the plan, Cork City Council will seek to optimise and extend places and spaces for art in the city. Over the next five years, there will also be renewed focus on public art, outdoor festivals, street arts and events as the city seeks to animate the city centre and city neighbourhoods including the towns and villages that have become part of the city since the expansion in 2019. As part of the strategy, the Cork City Arts Office will also be advancing the culture and conditions that make Cork a city for artists and a base from where artistic careers can be built.

Our quality of life in Cork is also hugely influenced by our access to green space. The opening of the first phase of Marina Park in Blackrock and the upgraded city centre to Blackrock greenway – with its many more access points which mean that people with mobility issues can enjoy it more – has made a huge difference to the lives of people in Cork.

I was also delighted to attend the official opening of the Douglas Flood Relief Scheme by Minister of State at the Office of Public Works (OPW), Patrick O’Donovan.

The completed scheme ensures 221 properties are protected from potential flooding in Douglas and delivered wholesale improvements to Douglas Community Park with new pathways, planting and seating and the creation of a public Plaza on Church Street.

We all know that the 160 acre Tramore Valley Park was a godsend to people during the dark days of Covid. Next year, the park will become far more accessible to the people of Grange and Frankfield.

They won’t have to drive there, they will be able to walk or cycle.

Walkers, cyclists, students and commuters will be able to walk or cycle to the park and on to Douglas and the city centre via a one kilometre, well-lit pathway and bridge from the Grange Road.

Watch out, you can see some of the National Transport Authority-funded works underway on the N40 South Ring at the moment.

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